On TV, incompetence is funny, sometimes hilarious. Jackie Gleason made a career of it on the old “Honeymooners” show; Tom Haverford is absurdly incapable on “Parks and Recreation”; and Michael Scott brought the Peter Principle to new heights in “The Office.”
But in real life, incompetence can be dangerous, even life-threatening (think a real-life Homer Simpson actually in charge of safety at a nuclear power plant).
That’s where America finds itself nearly six years into the presidency of Barack Obama.
There’s no question Mr. Obama has all but checked out. There’s just no way to explain the president’s decision to play golf minutes after making a statement on an American beheaded by terrorists, or his choice to wear a summer suit to a press conference like he was chilling at a garden party.
But those are insignificant compared with the president’s true incompetencies now being exposed.
Terrorists are truly bearing down on America. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Saturday warned that jihadists will strike in the U.S. soon — very soon.
“Terrorism knows no border, and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” the king said.” If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month.”
Said the king: “You see how they carry out beheadings and make children show the severed heads in the street. It is no secret to you, what they have done and what they have yet to do. I ask you to transmit this message to your leaders: ‘Fight terrorism with force, reason and speed.’”
Horrific words, but spoken by a man who knows terrorism. He can see what’s coming and knows that the only way to respond to terrorism is with overwhelming force. Islamist militants understand only force.
But that’s the opposite of what Mr. Obama has done ever since he issued his impotent “red line” threat. He warned that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons would “cross a red line for us” and prompt “enormous consequences.”
That was two years ago. Mr. Assad used chemical weapons, and Mr. Obama did nothing. The president later said he’s not to blame: “I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line.”
But as Mr. Obama dithered and deflected blame, the terrorist group that morphed into the Islamic State consolidated power in parts of Syria, swept into Iraq and slaughtered thousands.
Candidate Obama pledged to talk with America’s adversaries. He thought he could reason with despots and dictators, even terrorists. And he vowed to bail as quickly as possible from Iraq and Afghanistan. He clearly does not think the U.S. is still at war worldwide with terrorists — but it is, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Last week, the president uttered a line that will define his presidency. Asked about his plans for combating the Islamic State, he said, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.” Then, he exposed his true incompetence: “We don’t have a strategy yet.”
There’s no question Mr. Obama has no idea what to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (in fact, the White House refuses to use the term “invasion” and has offered only weak sanctions in retaliation). But now, the president has acknowledged that he really has no idea what to do anywhere.
Instead, the disengaged president is offering only excuses and odd analyses of a very dangerous world. “The world’s always been messy we’re just noticing now in part because of social media,” he said in one weird aside during a fundraising speech. “If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” he said at another point.
And now, as Mr. Obama approaches 200 rounds of golf as president, he seems to have simply thrown in the towel. With terrorist chatter off the charts just two weeks before the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, the president offered this advice to Americans:
“Families should assemble a disaster supplies kit well in advance and have a plan to reconnect after a tragedy,” the president said.
Now we know what it would be like if Homer Simpson were president. But that’s just a cartoon — this is real life. Let’s just hope that Mr. Obama doesn’t get us all killed before he retires to the country club on Martha’s Vineyard.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.